Archive for the ‘Centre for Social Responsibility’ Category

An Ounce of Prevention with Fringe Benefits

By Nadine Riopel -

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? We know this. But it’s a tough sell. We all know how hard it is to make time for prevention when there are so many other more urgent (or more interesting) things to do.

Nowhere is this a bigger problem than in the world of disaster preparedness and relief. Despite overwhelming evidence that preparedness saves more lives than anything that can be done after a disaster, it’s tough to get the support and funding needed to do it well.

How do we change this? As I prepare for my next webcast on this very topic, I think part of the key is to see this work in a new light. According to one of my expert guests, preparedness has traditionally been seen as an expense.

What it really is is insurance. It’s hard to get people (and by extension, governments) to value something that, if the worst never happens, is basically invisible. But the insurance industry has managed it and is doing very well from the risks involved with health crises, accidental death, car crashes, and other horrible things that may or may not happen.

So why not this area, too?

Beyond that, one of the most effective tools in disaster preparedness is the exercise (basically, a mock disaster). It can be as simple as a group of people sitting around a table verbally playing the roles they would play if emergency did strike. Or it can be as elaborate as a full-scale mockup with actors playing casualties and placing calls to responders as distraught spouses and outraged journalists.

Exercises are actually a lot of fun. What better opportunity to get people from industry, government, and community organizations engaging with each other? What better chance for an organization to display its commitment to community safety and the environment? Anyone looking for ways to engage their employees with the broader community need look no further.

If you look at it this way, disaster preparedness work is more than insurance. It’s a community engagement opportunity. Even if the worst never does happen, preparedness efforts aren’t wasted. Two for the price of one! A bargain.

If you’d like to hear a more educated perspective on this rich field, please do sign up to join us on the free webcast next week. Here’s the link.

Doing Good With Garbage

By Nadine Riopel -

The concept of trash is kind of weird, when you think about it. We act as if we put it in the bin and it magically disappears.

Of course, it doesn’t really disappear. It goes somewhere. Landfill, garbage barges, incinerators – the usual suspects of garbage disposal. None of them create particularly desirable outcomes for the planet. It’s a topic that seems tailor-made to make us feel guilty.

But that’s what’s weird about it. In nature, there is actually no such thing as garbage or waste. Every product of every process becomes an input for another process. Squirrels don’t feel bad about dropping seed shells on the ground; it’s ok that dead plants rot where they fall.

Squirrel

So why can’t humans take our cue from Mother Nature on this one?

In the world of corporate social responsibility, there’s definite movement in this direction. They call it the waste-to-profit cycle. Forward-thinking businesses are trying to see waste products not as garbage, but as resources:

Can old, discarded products be broken down and repurposed into new products to avoid using more raw materials? Can water used in manufacturing be saved and used for other purposes, or even cleaned and re-used to avoid drawing more water from the ecosystem? And so on.

Waste-to-profit goes beyond physical waste. Companies are starting to ask themselves: Are we wasting opportunities to serve populations traditionally considered ‘not worth it’, like the poor? Are we wasting employees’ time or enthusiasm in some way?

The old mantra was “more, more, grow grow!”. The new mantra is, “make the most of what we’ve already got.” It’s about being more responsible, but it’s also about saving money.

It applies to our individual lives, too. Practices like composting and buying secondhand clothes fit right into this philosophy. Also, repurposing things we already have to avoid buying more. Making rugs out of old sheets, for example. In our house, mason jars serve as everything from baby food storage to serving dishes. Sometimes we even use them for canning!

Garbage is not always garbage. Sometimes it’s a resource in disguise. I’m thrilled to see this idea taking off in business and at home.

In fact, I’ll be hosting a free 45 minute webcast tomorrow morning on this very subject. Register now to join me and my guest Professor Matthew Grimes. He has some pretty cool things to say on the subject. We’d love to have you on board.

The Challenge and Opportunity of Non-Monetary Measurement

By Nadine Riopel -

I’ve been reading a book, called The Economics of Happiness, by economist and policy analyst Mark Anielski.EconomicsHappinessCover200

In his work, Mark noticed that when success is measured only in monetary terms (as it often is, most notably when we gauge a country’s success by its Gross Domestic Product/GDP), many other important things get ignored and neglected, leading to suffering, unhappiness, and wasted opportunities.

This is not news to those of us working to make change. We often bemoan the fact that money is the big focus in much of our world, and talk about how the ‘intangibles’ like happiness, integrity, trust, and wellness get short shrift.

But Mark is doing something practical about it. He’s developed a system called Genuine Wealth Indicators to measure the wellbeing of everything from individuals to companies to nations. It doesn’t exclude financial measures, but it puts them in their proper place alongside a variety of other indicators to produce a truer picture of how we’re doing.

For changemakers, this holds incredible, exciting potential. We often struggle with what we do- seeming too touchy-feely and fuzzy wuzzy.

How can we strategize if we can’t measure our progress? How can we engage powerful people from areas like government and big business (where reporting and measurement drive every decision) if we can’t quantify what we’re doing?

Obviously, I want to hear more about how this system works, and how it applies to changemakers in our personal lives and work. That’s why I’ll be sitting down with Mark one week from today for an interactive webcast conversation. I’ll ask him my questions, but you can ask him yours, too, through the online Q&A function of the webcast.

The session is free, but you do have to register. We’d love for you to join us: here’s the link.

Charities Aren’t Being Honest With You

By Nadine Riopel -

You’re being lied to, friends.

Not maliciously or even deliberately, but it’s happening because it’s hard to tell someone the truth if: a) we don’t think they want to hear it; and b) they have some sort of power over us.

Statue

Say it ain’t so!

This dynamic is rampant between charities and supporters. The charities want to maintain good relationships; plus keep the donations and other support flowing. So they’re very leery of telling us anything that might rub us the wrong way, even important information that would help everyone to do more good.

This piece from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (*This link has been broken since the posting of this piece – the Centre for Effective Philanthropy has removed this article for reasons unknown to us. Please accept our apologies.) shows that even Jimmy Carter isn’t immune. As the CEP asks, “If A Former President Can’t Give Funder Feedback, Then Who Can?”

Charities’ reluctance to be honest with donors is no reflection on the donors as people. It’s more about how difficult it can be to bring up difficult topics, and our society’s long-standing habit of treating charitable givers as above reproach; as if giving entitles you to thanks and praise only – never criticism. This is how things work – for now, at least.

This hit home for me when I tried to invite some corporate giving people to an event I was co-hosting. One of the goals of the event was to encourage self-reflection; help each participant examine their work with new perspective and insight.

This was a tough concept for the corporate giving folks. They asked me if I wanted them to speak at the event. They seemed to think they would be doing me a favour by showing up. They were not excited by the idea of workshopping their own work.

They’re clearly conditioned to see themselves as the experts, as the sources of all funding, wisdom and power. They’re not used to being treated as equal partners in a process that includes a diversity of players, or asked to examine their own work with a critical eye.

This doesn’t mean they’re bad people; any more than charity workers are bad for sugar-coating supporter communications. It just means they’re locked into this old structure of benefactor and supplicant – playing out traditional roles.

So what can we do? For givers, the first step is to simply be aware of this dynamic; to know that the charities we support will tend towards painting a rosy picture of how things are going. Then, we can put some thought into asking more probing, more difficult questions to draw out the other side of the truth to get a fuller picture.